Mexican tomatoes and Greek debt

Since everybody talks about debt these days, so will I. Rich industrialized countries owe a lot of money to developing countries, as people from Rafael Correa (the Ecuadorian president) to Eduardo Galeano (late Uruguayan author) pointed out. Let’s make an example. The ancestors of nowadays Mexicans invented and developed the tomato (and, by the way, corn, all kinds of peppers, vanilla etc.). For some apparently bureaucratic reason, developed countries have forgotten to pay standard royalties for licenses on agricultural crops. If we calculate a very lenient 1% of the value of annual sales, forget about penalties for late payment, and assume that the US population consumes a constant number of tomatoes per year (probably not true, but makes life easier), it is easy to do the maths. We need to introduce a discount factor for future earning/ or forgotten past payments, know roughly the evolution of the US population (tips to Angus Maddison’s data), and we can calculate the net outstanding royalty fees from tomato sales alone: 158,428,275,151 USD. And that’s just tomatoes, and that’s just for the US sales. The numbers are, of course, pseudo exact, but I think you get the point. Greece should better start calculating outstanding debt from feta cheese (and whatever else they invented) produced outside Greece the last 200 years. That should cover the kind of ridiculous sums we are currently talking about.


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